Gift guide – Headphones

Give your smartphone or MP3 player a much needed audio boost with our top pick of the headphone bunch

TDK ST800

£120, tdkperformance.com

The king of cassettes has gone and swapped cheap tapes and neon leg warmers for a range of stylish high-end headphones. Following hot on the heels of the ST700s, the 800s sport a classy, yet retro design, coupled with an in-line graphic equaliser and tactile on-ear volume wheel. A concoction of metal, chunky plastic and real leather makes up the comfy design, while the immersive audio experience is both sensitive and dynamic, enabling you to enjoy loud volume, head-banging bass and crisp treble. So even if old-skool mix tapes mean nothing to you, these luxurious headphones are bound to impress.

Sennhesier CX300 II

£30, amazon.co.uk

A firm, long-time upgrade favourite at Stuff towers, Sennheisers CX300 IIs offer amazing bang for your buck – refined audio with tons of bass, sparkling detail with dramatic dynamics. Replace your shoddy headphones with these and you'll kick yourself for not upgrading sooner. Great if you're on a budget but want to ditch the crappy Apple buds. Just a word of warning though; Sennheiser's wonder 'phones are becoming increasingly difficult to track down, so you'd better be quick if you want in.{C}

Phonak Audeo PFE 012

£80, audeoworld.com

Music is so subjective that one person's perfect pitch is a little lacking in bass for another, and a tad too bright-sounding for someone else. The PFE 012s do as good a job of of satisfying disparate tastes as any in-ears we've tried. Testament to this is the fact that these tiny 14g buds are sitting pretty in the number one spot in our headphones top 10. Treat your lugholes to bags of detail, sweet vocal deliverance and and the kind of bass that would satisfy even the most discerning audiophile. Subtly attractive, they could easily sell for twice the price.{C}

Dr Dre Beats Wireless headphones

£180, monstercable.com

The hip-hop quack from Compton has done it again. This time his efforts have been focused on these awesome cable-free cans, adding yet another pair to the ever-growing line of premium headphones to be seen in public with. From Premier League footballers to kids on their way to college, everyone's wearing Dre's cans. With controls on the ear cups and the ability to connect to any musical Bluetooth device – coupled with Monster's superb tried-and-tested audio engineering – the Beats Wireless are oozing quality, in both the performance and style departments. You're not alone when it comes to coveting a pair.{C}  

Roc Nation Skullcandy Aviator

£110, skullcandy.com

Ever since the dawn of the Beats By Dr Dre Studio, everyone from 50 cent to Ludacris to Lady Gaga wants a piece of the lucrative headphone pie. One of the latest entrants into this ever-growing category is Jay Z's Roc Nation Aviators. Given these uber stylish cans are the result of a collaboration with long standing makers of aesthetically focused headphones Skullcandy, it's no shock Jay Z's efforts rock a drool-inducing design. Chuck in plush memory foam ear cushions, polycarbonate speaker housings, 40mm full range neodymium magnet drivers, in-line mic controls and tangle free cables, and you've got a pair of headphones that sound as good as they look.{C}

Grado GR10

£360, gradolabs.com

Grado's in-ear buds may be inescapably expensive, but so are rivals like the Shure SE535s. You certainly won't feel cheated with Grado's high-end efforts – especially given the company's reputation for excellence. An evolutionary improvement over their predecessors the GR8, the GR10s throw up subtle details in the low and high end, so pack a punch when it comes to bass and pay particular attention to percussion and string instruments. Impressively detailed, insightful and punchy, Grado's exceptional GR10s have been designed especially for the more discerning audiophile. Just looking at the oddly green exterior it’s hard to see, at first, where the money has gone. One listen is all it takes to find the answer.

Sony MDR-570LP

£18, Sony.co.uk

If you're after a pair of great-sounding on-ears at a bargain price, look no further than Sony's pocket-friendly efforts. With decent bass, bags of detail and a musical balance that embarrasses more expensive designs, they're better than they have any right to be. And they look good, too. We may have heard far better audio from other headphones, but few cans under £50 sound as good as the Sony MDR-570LPs. Comfortable and very well built, there's very little to complain about. We can overlook their minor flaws and recommend them to anyone seeking reasonable sound quality without having to forgo food for an entire month.

AKG K3003

£1,000, akg.com

As young kids, we often found ourselves standing in front of toy shop windows with our noses pressed against the glass, staring longingly at the most expensive toy the window. Those feelings were rekindled when AKG unveiled its eye-wateringly expensive K3003 headphones. With their luxurious hand-crafted stainless steel finish, AKG has gone all out with ridiculously precise audio engineering, creating the first in-ear buds to feature a three-way driver system. In other words, there is a dedicated driver for low-to-mid ranges, another driver specifically for the wider mid ranges, and one for higher, sharper frequencies. Each pair is numbered too, adding to that smug feeling of exclusivity.

House of Marley Destiny TTRs

£250, thehouseofmarley.com

The House of Marley Destiny TTRs cater to the 'look at me crowd' with these wonderfully colourful and environmentally friendly cans. Incredibly well built and sitting at the bass heavy side of the on-ear headphone scale, these noise cancelling headphones offer a pretty alluring alternative to equally expensive head-thumping cans like the Beats by Dr Dre Pros. If you can't bear the thought of donning a boring old black pair of on-ears, inject a bit of life into your audio experience.{C}

Comply tips

From £15, complyfoam.com

A top notch in-ear listening experience isn't just about having a pair of quality-sounding buds; it's also about comfort - something not all headphones can guarantee. Enter Comply's foam tips. Lauded for their comfort and great fit, the memory foam tips compress easily for insertion and expand slowly to match the contours of your ears for the utmost comfort and perfect fit. They'll get rid of unwanted ambient noise, too.

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